Wednesday 30 December 2009

the last 10 years Part 1

Over the course of the next few posts I intend to do a review of how I saw the last decade and the changes which effected the architectural technology profession. There's been lots of regulation, changes in technology and software, construction methods . From the way planning applications are made to design and construction of building and then there was the registration or protection of titles like building surveyor and architect.

I'll start with architectural technology representation. Back in 2006 on the First Saturday in November nearly 600 ATs gathered in the Ballroom of the RDS, where the IATGN as it became known orgainised a meeting for the AT with the view to setting up a new representative body for the industry which was to be known as Architectural Technology Ireland or ATI. Yet today little has happened, other than the fact that the profession is in decline due to downturn. A far cry from the claimed 1500 members. Many of those, whom served on the committee, are now struggling to survive within the industry, so it is unfair to attribute all the blame for its failure on these individuals…. Others I believe had their own agendas and have been successful in achieving them. Its now safe to assume that ATI is dead for the immediate future anyway.

Fortunately there is representation for the AT profession with CIAT and at a lesser scale in the RIAI. The CIAT membership maybe a few shy of 300 at present, but it is and has been working hard to represent the AT profession and I not doubt believe it will continue to do so in 2010 and years to come and with it the membership will increase.With a bit of luck 2010 will see a major breakthrough for CIAT.

Its only really since the RIAI achieved protection of the title of Architect (after some 150 odd years) under the Building Control Act that representation became a big issue for non-architects offering architectural services, before then few ATs considered joining any professional body, as they saw little benefit and besides in the last 10 years everybody was so busy that professional qualifications or the lack of them didn't bother anybody, from banks to solicitors, employers or clients it didn't matter. Today however it is a different story.

Tuesday 29 December 2009

2009 - The Year of the Extension

Domestic extensions and renovations have accounted for over 30% of all the projects I was involved in over the last 12 months. Not since I started working within the industry back in 1994, have I been involved in such a high % of this type of work. They say everything goes in 15 year cycle, which in this case seams to be true.

Of the projects, very few were exempted development under the Planning and Development Acts and Regulations, so as part of our work, making a planning application was one element. The main reason for this in many cases was the works to be undertaken were to the side of the dwelling: however a number of the extensions were over the 40sq.m threshold or when previous extensions were taken into account the floor area exceeded the 40 sq. m.

I haven’t encountered any problems with the planning applications to date and in a number of cases the decisions were made well within the statutory period, which was great for the client.

People seem to consider extending rather than trade up in dwelling size due to the current house sales market. Typically extensions involved the provision of additional bedroom accommodation. Granny flat extensions or the extensions, which are easily adoptable as granny flats also featured high in the list of extensions.

In many cases I found that people also took the opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of the existing structure, be it upgrading of insulation or windows, heating systems and controls. I expect that upgrading works will be a growth area in the next few years, particularly after the introduction of carbon taxes to fuel in the recent budget. With this in in mind, early in the new year I will be attending a one day CPD event entitled “Designing Low Energy Domestic Refurbs” which will hopeful fine tune me skills and improve my knowledge even further.

Monday 14 December 2009

Building Regs-Technical Guidance Documents

The DEHLG seem to be getting their act together in terms of getting Technical Guidance Documents (TGD’s)out for public consultation as Part H relating to Drainage appeared within the last week. How well its written might be another story.As expected gone are the references to SR 6 1991 and in its place the EPA Code of Practice. Many would say about time for SR 6 to be replaced. We have not used SR6 1991 for an number of years now, instead using the FETAC certified Site Assessors to undertake the site suitability testing.

There’s also references and guidance on rainwater harvesting, which is definitely a positive thing, if we are to take sustainability seriously. It seems pointless to be flushing toilets with what is meant to be good quality drinking water, however as some parts of the county found out within the last few years, here included, the quality of the water wasn’t fit for consumption anyway. Personally I’m looking at installing a rain water harvesting unit, as part of works to be undertaken in the future.

Getting back to the DEHLG and public consultation, I understand that they have their hands full after the Part M consultation, with 40 or so submissions. I’m sure the interest was increased due the introduction of the DAC Certs as the document will have a direct bearing on these in the future. How soon we can except to see the amended document well that’s another story, it will be a case of doing as many DAC Certs as quickly as possible under the current Documents I suspect…. Part F relating to ventilation which went for public consultation last year has yet to appear in its final format, so one can draw their own conclusions from that.

Of course Part L is due to be revised next year, to improve standards in thermal performance and reduce further our carbon emissions… the question is will we see the document… my money says yes if we still have a green minister for the environment. I don’t think that there has been too many houses built under the 2008 guidelines, I can see the 2010 guidelines been a complete culture shock to others when they do arrive.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

DAC Certs

Disability Access Certificates ( DAC Certs) are on the way as of 1 January 2010, which is not to far away now. Their introductaion is as a result of IS 351 of 2009 BUILDING CONTROL (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2009.

 Their introduction will bring some teething problems no doubt like:
  • Whom in Building Control is going to access them...... the Fire Officers have said they won't.
  • Will Building Control Authorities be satisfied with demonstrating Compliance with the current Part M or will they be looking one to demonstrate compliance with another document eg NDA's publication  Buildings for Everyone
  • What level of detail will they require, will full construction drawings be required or will documentation similar to the level of detail in a Fire Safety Certificate Application be sufficient?
The application fee won't sit well with persons whom require to make a DAC Cert application, in that it is €800 irrespective of size of project.

One has to ask the question it it now time that each element of the building regulations should be accessed by building control authorty in a single application,  like what happens in the UK?

Tuesday 8 December 2009


It’s finally time, to make my POP Record submission for Chartered Membership of CIAT or to give it its correct name the Professional and Occupational Performance Record Results Schedule.
  • Results Schedule signed off by POP Record Supervisor
  • CV updated
  • Cheque made out (€106 in my case)
  • Cover letter to accompany the submission.
Next correspondence should be the request to supply evidence for 5 of the 17 Units at which stage it should be just a case of taking the stuff out of the relevant file and submitting it.

Thursday 3 December 2009

One off housing

Over the last few years, I haven't been involved in too many "one-offs" as time was spent working on larger commercial projects or designing residential schemes: as this work, has dried up, things have come full circle, in that the one off is now featuring more and more again in my work, which was the type of work I did went I started working back in 1994. Its not to say that I haven't designed many houses in those intervening years, its hard to count how many I have, while there's been plenty of 3 bed semis, I've also been involved in many schemes of large individual houses too.

One off house design has moved on from the "bungalow bliss" type  grant sized house, which has is to be found on each rural road across the country. Have things improved much, I'm not so sure, however it is fair to say that design has become more of an important issue.  Many of the local authorites have developed Rural Design Guidelines, mainly following the lead of Cork County Council, whom produced a good publication back in 2003... a must have for both designer and potential house builder.

I can't take the credit for the design of the above dwelling, but rather I have developed the design from a planning application design to working drawings. There are things I don't particularly like myself nor would I have advised the client to do in the house, but then I didn't have a significant say in the dwelling design at concept stage.

Work on the house is progressing on site at the moment with another site visit due shortly.